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What is a benchmark test in education?

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Quick Answer

The purpose of a benchmark test in education is to determine how well students are learning a specific set of competencies. The questions on the test are written to assess particular competencies, and teachers can use the results of it to plan future instruction so that students receive additional teaching in the areas in which they show a lack of mastery and require additional assistance.

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In the United States, the vast majority of core subject area courses are designed to teach a prescribed set of skills and competencies. As a result, the pressure is on classroom teachers to ensure that students show mastery of those skills. Benchmark testing takes place at several points throughout the instructional year, in order to give classroom teachers, department coordinators and other levels of administrative personnel insight as to how students are preparing for the coming assessments. Instruction that takes place after the benchmark should take a considerable amount of focus from the results of the test itself. If a benchmark test in an algebra class shows that students are having a difficult time understanding the function of the quadratic equation, then that teacher needs to slow the material down until the students demonstrate mastery.

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